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Estrada non-tendered by Mets

Estrada among trio non-tendered by Mets

NEW YORK -- On a day the Mets signed two catchers with modest resumes, they also cut ties with the man they briefly identified as their likely catcher for next season. By not tendering a contract to veteran Johnny Estrada on Wednesday, the Mets made him a free agent and avoided a possible salary arbitration case.

The club allowed the midnight deadline to pass before it announced it had non-tendered Estrada, reliever Juan Padilla and outfielder Ben Johnson.

Mets general manager Omar Minaya never acknowledged non-tendering Estrada was a probable course of action. But that strategy was in place even before the trade -- Estrada from the Brewers for Guillermo Mota -- was completed on Nov. 20. Estrada was little more than insurance against the Mets being unable to acquire their preferred candidate to succeed Paul Lo Duca.

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When they made the trade with the Brewers, eliminating their $3.2 million obligation to Mota, they already had spoken at length with the Nationals about Brian Schneider, a catcher with defensive skills they coveted. They acquired Schneider and outfielder Ryan Church for outfielder Lastings Milledge on Nov. 30, making Estrada unnecessary.

The club did tender contracts to other players on the its 40-man roster who are unsigned for the 2008 season, including Endy Chavez, Pedro Feliciano, Aaron Heilman, Oliver Perez, Duaner Sanchez and Jorge Sosa, who are eligible for arbitration. The Mets may seek to sign Padilla and Johnson to Minor League contracts. If Johnson doesn't re-sign, the club will have nothing to show for dealing Heath Bell and Royce Ring to the Padres last fall.

Padilla missed the last two seasons because of elbow problems. He underwent two surgeries.

The Mets didn't act until midnight ostensibly because a chance they could trade Estrada or either of the other two existed, even though any potential trading partner could pursue the players as free agents at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Mets signed catchers Raul Casanova and Gustavo Molina and right-handed pitcher Nate Field to Minor League contracts Wednesday, inviting each to big league Spring Training.

Casanova, 35, batted .253 with 12 runs scored, one double, one triple, six RBIs, seven walks and 17 strikeouts in 29 games -- 79 at-bats -- with the Rays last season. He also batted .291 with nine doubles, five home runs and 21 RBIs in 44 games -- 141 at-bats -- with the Rays' Triple-A Durham team in the International League.

He has batted .234 with 38 doubles, five triples, 34 home runs and 124 RBIs in 367 big league games -- 1,024 at-bats -- with the Tigers, Brewers, Orioles, White Sox and Rays.

Molina, 25, split last season between the White Sox and Orioles. In 17 games and 27 at-bats, he batted .111 with one run scored, one RBI, one walk and seven strikeouts. In 43 games and 129 at-bats with the White Sox Triple-A Charlotte affiliate, he batted .209 with two home runs and nine RBIs last season. He played in 22 games with Double-A Bowie, batting .364 with four doubles and six RBIs in 77 at-bats.

He isn't related to the three catching Molina brothers -- Bengie, Yadier and Jose.

Field, who turned 32 on Tuesday, pitched in one game for the Marlins in 2007. He has a 4-5 record and three saves with 72 strikeouts in 87 2/3 innings during 89 big league games with the Royals, Rockies and Marlins.

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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